Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The meta moment: The Cornetto Trilogy is filled with meta movie moments, but one of our favourites hails from the magnificent Shawn of the Dead, as Simon Pegg and his merry band stumble across a fellow gang of survivors.
Why it’s so great: Led by Simon Pegg’s former Spaced co-star Jessica Hynes, this tongue-in-cheek encounter references the series that gave the stars their big break. It also pokes fun at cinema’s habit of producing stock characters with a who’s who of British comic talent including Martin Freeman, Reece Shearsmith, Tamsin Grieg , Julia Deakin and Matt Lucas serving up a string of cinematic stereotypes.
The meta moment: Deadpool visits the X-Mansion.
Why it’s so great: Ryan Reynolds’ “Merc with a Mouth” didn’t so much as break the fourth wall as smash through it with a sledgehammer in this most meta of mutant movies. From an action figure mocking Reynolds’ previous turn as the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, to throwing some shade on the CGI suit from his other superhero flop, Green Lantern; there are so many self aware moments to choose from in this spandex-clad spectacular. But by far our favourite meta moment involves Deadpool’s visit to the X-Men’s mansion: "Funny I only ever see the two of you," he says to Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. "It's like the studio can't afford another X-Man."
The meta moment: While being babysat by a neighbour, little Lindsey Wallace enjoys the entirely age-inappropriate ‘50s frightener The Thing from Another Planet.
Why it’s so great: Something of a retroactive reference, what makes this particular movie-in-movie moment so meta is that handily predicts Carpenter’s future career path, as the director would later go on to remake the film with his 1981 cult classic The Thing.
The meta moment: Visiting the set of Being John Malkovich.
Why it’s so great: Perhaps the most self-referential moment in cinema history comes, unsurprisingly from the pen of scribbler extraordinaire Charlie Kaufman and his mind-bending meta masterpiece. The action in Adaptation sees Kaufman’s fictional alter-ego (as played by Nic Cage) watching footage on the set of another of the writer’s movies, Being John Malkovich. The end result is an exercise in self-referentialism that’s every bit as strange, surreal and splendid as it sounds.
Wayne’s World (1992)
The meta moment: Wayne and Garth vow that they will not “bow to any sponsor” as Rob Lowe’s slick haired exec attempts to convince them to commercialize their show.
Why it’s so great: Peak irony is achieved as Mike Myers acts out commercials for Pizza Hut, Pepsi, Reebok, and Doritos while complaining about the practice of product placement; a moment of art imitating life imitating art that is even more impressive when you realize that the studio actually got paid for the product placement being discussed.
A Cock and Bull Story (2005)
The meta moment: The entire film.
Why it’s so great: Ready to go cross-eyed? Michael Winterbottom’s masterpiece is a film about the difficulty of making a film out of an un-filmable self-referential novel. But beyond the many layers of meta woven throughout the movie, possibly the most enjoyable aspect of A Cock and Bull Story is a cast of characters playing fictionalized versions of themselves, a trick Winterbottom and co. would later go on to repeat in The Trip.
Fight Club (1999)
The meta moment: No, it wasn’t your imagination, eagle-eyed viewers really did see an X-rated image snuck into the film’s finale.
Why it’s so great: The male-genitalia that briefly flashes on screen towards the film’s denouement refers back to a moment earlier in the film where we learn that Tyler Durden had a part time job as a projectionist, an odious position which he adds some excitement to by splicing shots from adult movies into family films.
Hot Shots Part Deux (1993)
The meta moment: While passing each other on separate gunboats, Martin and Charlie Sheen look at each other and yell “I loved you in Wall Street.”
Why it’s so great: Alongside Airplane, the Hot Shots movies undoubtedly rank among the finest spoofs ever committed to celluloid. But in amongst the silliness and slapstick this marvellous meta moment manages not only pokes fun at the father and son duo’s turn in 1987’s Wall Street, but also Sheen senior’s iconic performance in Apocalypse Now.
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